Movements in American
Survey of American Literature
1: Colonials to Revolutionaries (1620-1820)
Bradford, Bradstreet, Edwards, Franklin, Jefferson, Mather,
Paine, Wheatley.
2: An Age of Renaissance (1820-1865)
Emerson, Hawthorne, Irving, Melville, Poe, Thoreau,
3: Probing Reality (1865-1914)
Adams, Dickinson, Dreiser, Howells, James, Sinclair, Twain.
4: Between the Wars (1915-1945)
Anderson, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, O'Neill, Pound, Sandburg,
5: After the War (1945-present)
Bellow, Ellison, Heller, Kerouac, Mailer, Roth, Salinger,
What is post-colonial literature?
Definition of post-colonial: “all the culture affected by
the imperial process from the moment of colonization
to the present day”
Post-colonial literatures “emerged in their present form
out of the experience of colonization and asserted
themselves by foregrounding the tension with the
imperial power, and by emphasizing their differences
from the assumptions of the imperial centre”
the local vs the metropolitan center
Spatial metaphors: center, margin, periphery (Said: “ a
conscious affiliation proceeding under the guise of
filiation”—“a mimicry of the centre” )
Development and Concerns of Post-Colonial
1. texts produced by representatives of the
imperial power
 2. literature produced under imperial license by
natives or outcasts
 Hegemony of RS-English (Received Standard
English)—linguistic hierarchy
 English vs englishes—linguistic “continuum”
 Place and displacement—“dislocation,” “cultural
 The power of marginality
Critical Models
national and regional models
 2. race-based models
 3. comparative models
 4. wider comparative models
ex. hybridity and syncretism (“the
process by which previously distinct linguistic
categories, and by extension, cultural
formations, merge into a single new form”) (15)
National and Regional Models
National model: ex. American literature—
difference from British literature [ American
 Metaphors: parent-child, parent tree-offshoot,
stream-tributary (16)
 Wole Soyinka—”the process of selfapprehension” (17)
 Regional model: ex. West Indian literature or
Caribbean literature (18)
Comparative Models
 the
metropolitan-colonial axis—Britain as
a standard: in-school readers; a
normative core of British literature,
landscape, and history (Wordsworth’s
daffodils); colonial adventure
Race-Based Models:
the Black Writing Model
the African diaspora
 “Négritude”—Césaire, Senghor—essentialist
definition of Black culture (emotional;
integration and wholeness,; rhythmic and
temporal principles)—the danger of turning into
a new universal paradigm
  Black consciousness movement, Black Power
movements in the US
 Said—the danger of adopting “a double kind of
possessive exclusivism”
Commonwealth literature—1960s
 Third World literatures
 new literatures in English
 colonial literatures
 post-colonial literatures
 post-European
Place and Language
D. E. S. Maxwell: the “appropriateness” of
using non-indigenous language—“imported
tongue” alien to the place
 Settler colonies (the US, Canada, Australia,
New Zealand)—transplanted civilization
 Invaded colonies (India, West Africa)—
indigenous culture marginalized
 “double vision” (local + metropolis)
 Limitations—not comprehensive enough (the
West Indies and the South Africa); lack of
linguistic subtlety, essentialist
Thematic Parallels
“celebration of the struggle towards
independence in community and individual”
 “the dominating influence of a foreign culture of
post-colonial societies”
 “the construction or demolition of houses”
 “the journey of the European interloper through
unfamiliar landscape with a native guide”
 Use of allegory, irony, magic realism,
discontinuous narrative
 exile
Colonizer and the Colonized
 Franz
Fanon and Albert Memmi
 “the possibility of ‘decolonizing’ the
full independence—return to precolonial languages (Edward
Brathwaite, Chinweizu)
inevitable cultural syncreticity
(Wilson Harris, Soyinka)
Dominated and Dominating
Max Dorsinville
 To account for the changes in American
 To account for minority literatures Irish,
Welsh and Scottish literatures
 Subversion in the dominated literatures—
empire writes back to the imperial center
Post-colonial Language
Language as a medium for power—abrogation
and appropriation to re-place English
3 main types of linguistic groups monoglossic:
“single-language societies using english as a
native tongue”
diglossic: bilingualism—“english as the
language of government and commerce”—
India, Africa, the South Pacific
polyglossic or polydialectical: “a multitude of
dialects interweave to form a generally
comprehensible linguistic continuum”—
linguistic “intersections”—Caribbean
The Construction of English
“The world language called english is a
continuum of ‘intersections’ in which the
speaking habits in various communities have
intervened to reconstruct the language.” 2
ways of reconstruction:
1. Regional english varieties introduce new
2. National and regional peculiarities
“English is continually changing and growing
(becoming an ‘english’)”
Abrogation and Appropriation
“Abrogation is a refusal of the categories of the
imperial culture, its aesthetic, its illusory
standard of normative or ‘correct’ usage, and
its assumption of a traditional and fixed
meaning ‘inscribed’ in the words.”—must be
combined with appropriation to avoid being “a
reversal of the assumptions of privilege, the
‘normal’, and correct inscription” (38)
 “Appropriation is the process by which
language is taken and made to ‘bear the
burden’ of one’s own cultural experience,’
or…to ‘convey in a language that is not one’s
own the spirit that is one’s own ’” (38-39)
Reactions against “the notions of centrality
and the ‘authentic’” in the process of
decolonization Privileges the margins; refutes a
standard code (40) or rejects the possibility of
returning to “some ‘pure’ and unsullied cultural
condition” (anti-universalist, antirepresentational stance) (41)
 The english language as a tool to textually
construct a “world,” “it also constructs
difference, separation, and absence from the
metropolitan norm.” (44)
Metonymic Function of Language
“post-colonial writing abrogates the privileged
centrality of ‘English’ by using language to
signify difference while employing a sameness
which allows it to be understood. It does this
by employing language variance, the ‘part’ of a
wider cultural whole, which assists in the work
of language seizure whilst being neither
transmuted nor overwhelmed by its adopted
vehicle.” Signifying process—post-colonial texts
as metonymy; language variance itself as
“metonymic of cultural difference”
Language Variance: Allusion
process of allusion installs
linguistic distance itself as a
subject of the text. The
maintenance of the ‘gap’ in the
cross-cultural text is of profound
importance to its ethnographic
Strategies of Appropriation
Contrast the appropriated english with SE (59)
 Editorial intrusions: footnotes, glossary, the
explanatory preface, etc. (61)
 Glossing: “the most primitive form of
metonymy” (62)—absence/gap between word
and its referent
 Untranslated words: “selective lexical fidelity”
“forces the reader into an active engagement
with the horizons of the culture in which these
terms have meaning.”—indicating the gap, “a
sign of distinctiveness”; “an endorsement of
the facility of the discourse situation” (65)
Interchange: “to generate an ‘inter-culture’ by
the fusion of the linguistic structures of two
languages”—“a term coined by Nemser and
Selinker to characterize the genuine and
discrete linguistic system by learners of a
second language. The concept of an
interlanguage reveals that the utterances of a
second-language learner are not deviant
forms or mistakes, but rather are part of a
separate but genuine system.”
 Syntactic fusion: to mix the syntax of local
language with the lexical forms of English
developing (colloquial) neologisms
The Gothic
Term used by 18th Century
Neoclassicists as synonymous with
“barbaric” to mean anything that
offended classic tastes.
 Romanticists of 19th century looked
on the gothic with favor.
 To them it suggested anything
Medieval, primitive, natural, wild free,
authentic, romantic.
 Elements
of the Gothic that they
celebrated—variety, richness,
mystery, aspiration
 The gothic is a way for us to
examine the realm of the
irrational and the perverse
impulses and nightmarish terrors
that lie beneath the orderly
surface of the civilized mind.
 In America what does that
The Gothic Novel
Magic, Mystery, and chivalry are chief
Setting of “first” gothic novel (Horace
Walpole’s Castle of Otranto) was set in a
medieval (gothic) castle with underground
passages, trap doors, dark stairs, and
mysterious rooms where doors slam
Early American Gothic novelist Charles
Brockden Brown (1771-1810) Wieland
Elements of the gothic have become cliche
now to the point of melodrama, but the
horror movie and gothic elements in fiction
continue to abound and to be popular
Modern authors combine the gothic,
romance, and realism
Extended to a type of fiction which lacks
medieval settings but develops a brooding
atmosphere of gloom and terror, represents
events which are uncanny, or macabre, or
melodramatically violent, and often deals
with aberrant psychological states.
Characteristics of Romanticism
Idealization of rural life
Enthusiasm for the uncivilized or “natural”
Enthusiasm for the wild, irregular, or grotesque
in nature or art
Innocence over experience
Use of “fresh,” even common language rather
that poetic diction
Abandonment of the heroic couplet in favor of
blank verse and experimental forms of verse
Characteristics of Romanticism
Sensibility (emotionalism as opposed to
Sentimental melancholy
Emotional psychology
Interest in human rights
Sympathetic interest in the past (esp. medieval =
Love of nature
Some Characteristics of Romanticism
(American Movement 1830-1865)
--Sensibility (emotionalism as opposed to rationalism)
--Love of nature
--Sympathetic interest in the past (esp. medieval = gothic)
--Abandonment of the heroic couplet in favor of blank verse
and experimental forms of verse
--Use of “fresh,” even common language
rather that poetic diction
 --Idealization of rural life
 --Enthusiasm for the uncivilized or
 --Enthusiasm for the wild, irregular, or
grotesque in nature or art
 --Interest in human rights
 --Sentimental melancholy
 --Emotional psychology

Movements in American Literature